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Natalia Vikhlyantseva out of Australian Open

Russia's Natalia Vikhlyantseva won’t compete at the Australian Open because her preferred vaccine isn’t approved. Picture: AFP
Russia’s Natalia Vikhlyantseva won’t compete at the Australian Open because her preferred vaccine isn’t approved. Picture: AFP

A Russian tennis player won’t contest next month’s Australian Open because her vaccine of choice – Sputnik V – is not on the government’s approved list.

Former world No.54 Natalia Vikhlyantseva, who would have been in singles qualifying, revealed on social media that she would not make the trip to Melbourne because of her vaccination status.

Players, staff and spectators must be fully vaccinated to attend the Australian Open unless they receive a rare medical exemption that is scrutinised in a multi-step review process.

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This is the first time international tennis stars faced a vaccine mandate to compete, a requirement that includes not only the grand slam but lead-in events in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Tennis Australia chief executive and Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said the mandate resulted in player vaccination rates surging from about 50 per cent to beyond 95 per cent.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic is entered but yet to confirm if he will play in Sydney and Melbourne but has spoken about preferring to have the “freedom to choose” what he puts in his body.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic is entered in the ATP Cup and Australian Open but has not confirmed he is playing either event. Picture: AFP
World No.1 Novak Djokovic is entered in the ATP Cup and Australian Open but has not confirmed he is playing either event. Picture: AFP

Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert and promising Queenslander Olivia Gadecki, who both declined to be vaccinated against Covid-19, previously indicated they would not enter the tournament.

Among the other Covid-related absences are France’s Jeremy Chardy (adverse reaction to a vaccine) and Slovenian Aljaz Bedene (lingering fatigue since testing positive).

Grand slam champions Rafael Nadal and Emma Raducanu are both vaccinated but tested positive to the coronavirus in recent weeks.

Nadal looks to be in significant doubt to play in the Australian Open.

“As a consequence of the situation, I have to maintain total flexibility with my schedule,” Nadal wrote in a statement on Monday night.

“I will analyse my options depending on how my situation evolves.”

Vikhlyantseva, 24, said she wanted to play in Australia but that “Sputnik is not verified yet”.

Pierre-Hugues Herbert (right, with Nicolas Mahut) isn’t playing in the Australian Open because he doesn’t want to get vaccinated. Picture: AAP
Pierre-Hugues Herbert (right, with Nicolas Mahut) isn’t playing in the Australian Open because he doesn’t want to get vaccinated. Picture: AAP

“Good luck for all participants and AO team, who always made amazing events,” she posted on Twitter.

The federal government considers an international traveller to be fully vaccinated if they have completed a course of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)-approved or recognised vaccine.

These are: AstraZeneca Vaxzevria, AstraZeneca Covishield, Pfizer/Biontech Comirnaty, Moderna Spikevax or Takeda, Sinovac Coronavac, Bharat Biotech Covaxin, Sinopharm BBIBP-CorV or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen-Cilag.

Only the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was world No.1 Ash Barty’s choice, requires a single dose, with the others needing a double dose at least 14 days apart.

The TGA is evaluating other Covid-19 vaccines that may be recognised for inbound travel to Australia in future.

Charted flights are scheduled to bring tennis players and staff into the country from December 28 ahead of the summer’s first events, starting with the ATP Cup in Sydney on January 1.

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